Monday, August 15, 2011


or, what I like to call

Growing up, it's not that we weren't religious, or I should say, it's not that we didn't have religion.  I can say that we believed in God, but not that we *knew* God.  We were a military family, and between moves and after retirement, we lived with my mom's sister in Missouri.  The only times we attended church (that I was old enough to remember anyway) were when we lived with my aunt.  Then, we attended the "family church."  I call it the "family church" because my family had helped build and were always members of the small country church.

Despite church attendance not being a regular, constant thing in my life, I remember praying as young as 1st or 2nd grade.  Anytime I felt sad, scared, or in need of help, I would pray for help or comfort.  Sometimes, I would even pray to give my thanks.

We became a civilian family in time for me to begin 7th grade.  That was when we began going to church on a regular basis.  During Sunday School, we would each take a different translation of the Bible (New International Version, King James Version, New Revised Standard, etc) and would look up passages that we would then compare and contrast to see if we could decide the meaning that the passage was meant to convey as compared to what the lesson manual presented.

In another instance, I asked the pastor what the Bible said about drinking alcohol.  She gave me a list of passages to read and study so I could make up my own mind.  Half suggested that alcohol consumption was acceptable, half suggested that it was not.

As I was in college, religion was confusing to me.  If you died without having heard of Jesus Christ, could you still be saved?  Did saying the words "I accept Jesus Christ in my heart/as my personal Savior" qualify you for heaven regardless of your behavior or future feelings on the subject?  Is there even a god?  If God is so loving, why has He left us without a prophet to guide us even though times are supposed to be increasingly evil as we approach the Second Coming?  If there is a god, why doesn't he love me enough to make my life easier?

With all my questions and doubts, I still continued to pray.  When I got home to an empty apartment after work late at night, I would pray for safety.  At bedtime, as I pondered the struggles and difficulties in my life, I would pray for help and guidance. I would imagine a large chair with a large man sitting in it, kind of like the Lincoln Memorial's statue of Abraham Lincoln.  Except, instead of a 28 foot tall statue of Lincoln, in the chair sat Heavenly Father.  And on his lap, I would sit curled up, tiny as can be in comparison.  He would hold me, and I would cry, and He would tell me that things would be better soon.  I longed for a relationship with this being called God.  But I still questioned His very existence, so more than anything else, I prayed and prayed and prayed for proof of his existence.  I prayed that He would appear to me physically, or whatever He could do to show me that He was there, without a doubt.  I had been praying for that ever since I was little, and it continued as I was in college.

Finally, one night as I cried and prayed myself to sleep, I asked God again to prove himself to me.  Only this time, instead of making some physical appearance, I begged for happiness.  "Please God, if you're really there, just let me wake up happy tomorrow.  I'll never doubt you again, just please let me be happy," I cried.

It's not that my life was horrible.  Things had just not been going quite right and I was sinking out of my normal cheerful mood into a bit of a depression.  I was a part of an Air Force ROTC detachment at a college that I didn't attend for my regular classes.  I had to travel 2 hours each way twice a week every week for my ROTC class.  That school started a week later than my own.  During that week, the first week of January, I chose to go on a Base Visit, so I emailed all of my professors to let them know I'd miss that first week of class and to please give me my work.  Everyone was fine with this, except one professor who never did forgive me for choosing ROTC over her class.  Once I did start school, someone had mistakenly assigned us to wear short sleeved blues as our Uniform of the Day despite the frigid weather.  With a passenger in my car, my alternator went out leaving us stranded in the snow, ice, and freezing temps out in the middle of nowhere.  (A blessing I didn't realize at the time: I had a blanket in the back of my car, and our cell phones worked so we could call someone to come get us.)   In February, I left classes early one day because I had a sore throat that I looked at in the mirror to find a big gray patch!  I went home and slept, tried to go to work but was promptly sent home where I slept more.  In the morning, I couldn't even stand up in the shower long enough to clean up before going to my appointment at the campus clinic.  I had to call my cousin to come drive me there.  Apparently, I nearly died!  I had a bacterial infection that was taking me slowly.  So I missed more school, which did not improve my standings with that already disgruntled professor.  Then in March, things came together where I was no longer qualified to continue in the ROTC program.  My dreams of being an Air Force officer were shattered a second time.  The first was because costs demanded that I transfer away from a college with the program to one without.  Now my dream was gone again.

My boyfriend had been stationed in Korea for a year, and was now headed to Germany for another 3-4 years.  My cousin had gotten married and moved out, leaving me with a couple roommates that I rarely spoke to.  My classes weren't going well.  Everything seemed to be headed downhill.  This is when I prayed for happiness.

I woke up the next morning happy.  Not just content, but joyful.  There was no real reason for my joyous mood, I just was.  I quickly prayed again that April morning, thanking God for my happiness, expressing that I would keep my promise to never doubt His existence again.

Things still weren't great, but I wasn't as depressed anymore.  In late April, as I was working at Subway, two young men in suits came in, instead of the guys in military uniform I was used to seeing.  We talked as they ordered their sandwiches, the last in the line after lunch.  "Have you ever heard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," they asked.  I proceeded to tell them the two misguided things I had heard about "Mormons" to which they quickly dismissed.  Then, at the register, I began hearing things that I had always thought had to be true if God really was as loving as He was said to be.  There was a prophet on the earth today, and his name was Gordon B. Hinkley.  I think my whole world changed as Elder Boehme made that one statement.  I think I even responded with something like, "I KNEW IT!!!"

As I learned more and more, I knew I wanted to join this church.  I had told my mom that I was talking to the missionaries, and she had said, "If it makes you feel closer to God to hug a tree, then hug a tree!"  When I told her I wanted to join the church, she responded with, "I told you to hug a tree, not chain yourself to it!"  None of my friends and family were very excited about my decision, and they all tried to talk me out of it.  But knowing there was a prophet, a prophet that I just knew had to exist if God really was loving and kind, I knew I had found truth.

Over the next few months, I quit smoking.  I was embarrassed about it already, so I don't know if the missionaries even knew I was a smoker.  I also had one last party and then quit drinking, another something I don't think the missionaries were aware of.  I studied everything I could find, which probably got in the way of studying for my finals, but eternal salvation is more important anyway, right?!  I read the good stuff, the bad stuff, the ugly stuff.  I prayed.  I studied more.  I prayed more.  Then, after attending another person's baptism one night, I decided I'd had enough time researching.  It was time to make a decision.  I prayed to know for sure if I had found a church of truth, to know if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was the one church on earth with a fullness of gospel truths.  After praying, I opened The Book of Mormon to a random page.  I had the distinct impression that this book and all I had read within it had been good, and that nothing that taught these goodnesses could be evil as some others had told me it was.  I called the missionaries, probably later in the night than I should have.  I told them that I wanted to be baptized.  I picked a date and plans were made.

On July 16th, 2003 I was baptized a member of the LDS Church.  My family came to support me, despite their objections.  My mom was pleased that I took out all piercings because of it, and had quit smoking.  Every day since then, I have been so thankful for my membership in the Church.  It is filled with some of the best people I've ever met.  It teaches morals and values unmatched by any other church or institution I've attended.  And above all else, I have gained a relationship with both my Heavenly Father and with my dearest Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I look at pictures, statues, and other images of Joseph Smith, I am overcome with love and thankfulness that he was worthy to restore the gospel's fullness to the earth.  Images of Christ fill me with love and a familiarity that I hadn't previously had.  Both President Hinkley and after his death, President Monson give me those same feelings of love, happiness, and trust.  I know in my heart that they would never lead us astray, as they love us and want us to reach our potential.  I know, without a doubt, that these men were/are called of God as prophets.  I know that our Heavenly Father leads and directs this church through His prophets.  No matter how awful things may sometimes seem, I feel like my Father in Heaven is there with me, holds my hand, and gives me guidance and direction when I need it.  I know He is the source of my happiness.  I know that He loves me.  I know it with everything inside of me.  I know it because I have felt it.  He has answered my prayers.

He will answer your prayers, too.  I encourage you to talk to your Heavenly Father, get to know Him, and allow yourself to feel the love He has for you.  It has made my whole world better.  I feel blessed to have the opportunity to now teach my three beautiful children about these wonderful truths.  I hope they will always know Him and of His love for each of them.

I leave these thoughts and my testimony with you, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Also, thanks to Scott Boehme, Jake Neeley, and Jake Frandsen for being willing and worthy to teach me!!